A look at the statues and sculptures of the great Jack Nicklaus
June 02, 2015
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
For many fans, the legendary Jack Nicklaus remains the face of golf. A record 18 major wins sees to that. Certainly he’s the face of golf this week as the PGA TOUR arrives at his Muirfield Village for the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.
Outside of the clubhouse, you’ll find a statue of Nicklaus.
It isn’t the only time Nicklaus has been captured in bronze.
The Golden Bear might arguably be the most sculpted golfer in history. Larger-than-life statues of him can be found across America and even overseas.
The USGA just unveiled a statue of Nicklaus last week, and with the Memorial taking place this week, it seems like a good occasion to check out some of the sculptures devoted to him.
JACK IS BACK
Far Hills, New Jersey
The most recent sculpture unveiled of Nicklaus happened last week when the USGA opened the Jack Nicklaus Room at the USGA’s Museum. The bronze statue, titled “Jack is Back” is by Zenos Frudakis, who also created the Nicklaus statue at Valhalla (see below). It celebrates Nicklaus’ 1980 U.S. Open win at Baltusrol, his fourth U.S. Open title. The year before had been a disappointment for Nicklaus, so he revamped his swing with longtime coach Jack Grout. When he putted out on the final hole to seal his victory – and in the process set a new U.S. Open scoring record – the Baltusrol crowd chanted in unison, “Jack is back. Jack is back.”
Muirfield Village, Dublin, Ohio
Of course there is a statue of Nicklaus at the club he founded, Muirfield Village. The club is named after Muirfield in Scotland, where Nicklaus won his first Open Championship. A statue of the club’s founder, staring down an airborne shot as it undoubtedly lands close to the hole, is at the clubhouse’s entrance.
Muirfield Village is situated on 220 acres, including an 11-acre driving range. The course was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 27, 1974, with an exhibition between Ohio State alums, Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf. Nicklaus shot a 66, which stood as the course record until 1979.
JACK NICKLAUS TRIBUTE SCULPTURE
The city of Dublin, the home of Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village, commissioned Chicago artists Jeffrey Varilla and Anna Koh-Varilla to create a sculpture that reflected Nicklaus’ contributions to the Dublin community. The sculpture was unveiled in 1999 and shows Nicklaus as a mentor, teacher and role model to a young golfer. The sculpture is located south of Muirfield Village.
Jack Nicklaus and Muirfield Village
NICKLAUS STATUE AT KILLEEN CASTLE
County Meath, Ireland
Even before Nicklaus opened his Signature Design course in 2009, it had already received a commitment from the Solheim Cup organizing committee to host the 2011 event. Prior to the start of the 2011 Solheim Cup, club officials unveiled this statue of Nicklaus – created by Irish sculptor Paul Ferriter -- at the first tee.
JACK NICKLAUS & DWIGHT GAHM
Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville, Kentucky
You know Nicklaus, but you may not know Gahm. So why are the two next to each other in this sculpture at Valhalla? Gahm is the Louisville businessman who owned 486 acres of a former quarterhorse farm in the eastern part of Jefferson County. He decided to build a golf course, and he hired Nicklaus to design it. The course has since hosted a Ryder Cup and multiple PGA Championships. “Jack did a hell of a job for us,” Gahm said. “He made it perfect for us.” Zenos Frudakis was then commissioned to create a sculpture of both men, and it was unveiled just before the start of the 2008 Ryder Cup.
Frudakis told the Louisville Courier-Journal that “Dwight posed in his offices, and Jack posed in his offices in Ohio. I have old photos of them, so I developed the whole figure large. I started with a small figure and worked my way from there. I don't always know how it's going to come out. I hope it's going to come out well, but I am very pleased with this one."
Frudakis also was the artist who created the Payne Stewart statue at Pinehurst.
NICKLAUS STATUE AT AUGUSTA MUSEUM OF HISTORY
Nicklaus’ sweep of the putter when he birdied the 17th hole in the final round of the 1986 Masters is the singular image for many people about the Golden Bear’s final major win. A sculpture by American sculptor Blair Buswell captured that moment. Morris Communications sponsored the statue, donating it to the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, and it was unveiled in 2000. The statue joined several other statues of legendary Masters winners such as Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan and installed at the Augusta Golf & Gardens, but the gardens were closed for financial reasons in 2007 and the statues were placed in a maintenance shed. Eventually, the statues found their way to the rotunda of the Augusta Museum of History as part of the “Celebrating a Grand Tradition, The Sport of Golf” exhibit.
Jack Nicklaus recalls 1986 Masters
GOLFER OF THE CENTURY STATUE
In the lobby of the Jack Nicklaus Museum on the campus of his alma mater, Ohio State University, a huge Nicklaus statue greets visitors. It’s the first thing you see in the 24,000-square-foot facility that has an amazing number of Nicklaus artifacts and memorabilia from his personal collection.
British artist Leicester Thomas is the sculptor. Nicklaus received the statue in 1988 when he was named Golfer of the Century (1888-1988) during a ceremony in New York that was attended by Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan. The award was part of a celebration of 100 years of golf in America.
BEAR TRAP STATUE AT PGA NATIONAL
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
OK, technically this isn’t a statue of Nicklaus. But it might as well be. The Bear Trap – the 15th, 16th and 17th holes on the Champion Course -- is among the most famous three-hole stretches on the PGA TOUR, and can often decide who emerges as the winner of the annual TOUR event, The Honda Classic.
“I don’t care if they make golf balls that go for a 1,000 yards,” Nicklaus once said. “The Bear Trap will stand the test, no matter what the equipment is.”
With Nicklaus as the designer for the three holes, it seemed fitting to honor him there, so when you reach the tee box at the 15th hole, you’ll find a huge growling Bear to greet you.
THE GOLDEN BEAR
Similar to the Bear Trap statue, the Golden Bear statue at the first tee of the Kiele course at Kauai Lagoons honors the man who designed the course. The statue was unveiled in 1988.
Originally, the statue was at the 18th tee box. Then it was moved to the 18th green. The latest owners of the course recently moved it again, to its current location at the first tee. As you can tell, the Golden Bear likes to prowl.
A representative of the course was not sure of the artist commissioned for the project but said the sculpture came from China.
Longs, South Carolina
A Nicklaus statue created by Texas artist Bob Pack stands in front of the clubhouse at Long Bay Golf Club just outside Myrtle Beach. The course, established in 1989, is one of Nicklaus’ Signature Design courses. Pack has created several sculptures in his Legends of Golf series, and also has a sculpture of Francis Ouimet and caddie Eddie Lowery at the World Golf Hall of Fame.
JACK NICKLAUS AWARD
The Jack Nicklaus Award is awarded to the top collegiate in each division (NCAA Division I, II and III and NAIA). It is awarded by the Golf Coaches Association of America and presented by Jack Nicklaus at a ceremony during the final round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Nicklaus, a Big Ten and NCAA champion at Ohio State, helped inspire and create the Jack Nicklaus Awards in 1988. The winner of the award earns an exemption into the following year's Memorial. Patrick Rodgers, who recently finished T2 at the Wells Fargo Championship, was the 2014 Nicklaus Award winner. Past recipients include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Luke Donald, Hunter Mahan, Bill Haas, Ryan Moore and Justin Thomas.
JACK NICKLAUS TROPHY
The PGA TOUR began awarding its own Player of the Year award in 1990. It became the Jack Nicklaus Trophy seven years later. The award is voted on by the players. The trophy, designed by artist Eliot Goldfinger, weighs approximately 45 pounds. The trophy shows an exuberant Nicklaus with his putter raised in the air. Tiger Woods has won the Nicklaus Trophy 11 times, including five consecutive years from 1999 to 2003. Woods won eight times in nine years from 1999 to 2007; Vijay Singh (2004) was the only other player to win in that span.